Training provides lessons in empathy — and action

by DEVIN WEEKS
Hagadone News Network | September 16, 2020 1:00 AM

In the words of poverty expert Donna Beegle, "The bullets of poverty are many, and they're constant."

The Communications Across Barriers president covered a lot of ground Tuesday during the first day of the Coeur d'Alene Poverty Immersion Institute virtual training.

About 80 participants tuned in as Beegle explored the broad scope of poverty's reach into academia, employment, assistance programs, child care, race, immigration, addiction, the justice system, nutrition and more.

Beegle founded Communications Across Barriers, a consulting firm that serves professionals and entire communities on breaking the cycle of poverty in America.

As someone who grew up in generational poverty, she spoke with compassion, knowledge and authenticity as she shared stories from her own life. She knows that sense of hopelessness and lack of self worth that accompanies being perpetually poor.

"We see poverty as a people problem, not a poverty problem,” Beegle said. "People who live in the crisis of poverty are pelted with, ‘Something's wrong with you.'

“People are taught they are the cause of poverty, so they internalize that as a personal deficiency."

Beegle encouraged participants to spend a few minutes connecting to the information during virtual breakout sessions. Attendees from nonprofits, school entities and other organizations reflected on how their experiences have shaped their views.

"It brought back a lot of memories, things that I had shoved way back," said Glenda Weaver, chairwoman and founder of Relatives as Parents, Inc., a Post Falls nonprofit that provides support and resources for people raising the children of relatives.

"I deal a lot with poverty because most of the people I work with are on Social Security or SSDI, disability," she said, explaining that many who take on relatives' kids only receive $309, no matter how many kids.

"I’m very much for giving a hand up and not a hand out, but how do we stop that when we have people making such a limited amount on Social Security?" she said.

The training continues today with tools for improving communication and relationships, action plans and more in-depth information on how to create a paradigm shift in North Idaho.

Beegle's Poverty Institute is being presented by Charity Reimagined, a local nonprofit dedicated to lifting people out of poverty by helping other nonprofits and service groups become more effective in fulfilling their missions.

“I think everybody on this call today will agree that the current statistic that 83% of people born into generational poverty never leave it, it’s wholly unacceptable," Charity Reimagined founder Maggie Lyons said. "Charity Reimagined is dedicated to trying to change this trajectory, through education and training and through data gathering so that we can do a better job as a community helping those who serve."

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DEVIN WEEKS/Press

Renowned poverty expert Donna Beegle, who grew up in generational poverty, walks participants through a simulated model of social class exercise Tuesday during the first day of virtual Poverty Immersion Institute training. The training is to help participants become poverty-informed citizens who can make a difference in their community.